Friday, March 31, 2006

Italian Madness!!! Part 2

Now - I want to erase any fear that I am just going to bitch about the trip here. The flight problems, etc., were really the only problem, and since there was not much to be done about that and since all it really did was make me miss the Pope - I don't really care.

I actually had a great time on the trip.

I went with two avowed motives -

1. Have fun, damnit.

2. Soak up as much Italian culture/language/atmosphere as possible.

I think I got both of those down. I spent time with the people on the tour that I liked (a couple of very good old friends and some cool people I met from the group) and ignored the ones who were determined not to have a good time (my roommate, in particular). I saw beautiful sights, had some really good food, wine, espresso (I still can't drink american coffee yet...) - but unfortunately did not meet the Italian woman of my dreams. One of the tour guides was very nice and cute, but got sick and left for most of it...

I have to assume it wasn't because I was hitting on her.

Oh well.

Rome was lovely - and I want to go back. I will do so when I have lost more weight and am still yet prettier - and more confident in my abilities to charm the pants off of some lovely native with my beautiful opera singing.

Let's make a Hooray, Beer! field trip of it!

P.S. - here is a shot of the new Wiggins is action -

Italian Madness!!!! Part 1

Okay - so it wasn't really that kind of trip, but we'll work with that, anyway.

I guess we should start with the whole Pope thing, since that was how the whole trip started. The main problem there was really the day before - and I will start this by saying Air France sucks serious ass. For some reason they decided that 45 minutes was enough time to get from one side of Charles de Gaulle airport to the other - while going through passport control! Needless to say we missed our flight to Rome and were late there making that a VERY long day and had to wait till the next day for our luggage.

Sucks.

Plus - I was sick.

Now... if I was going to make it to the Papal audience I was going to have to get up at like 5:00 the next morning (killing any chance of feeling good for the rest of the trip) and spend hours on a bus to sing one short chorale with a large choir (who wouldn't miss me) surrounded by 30-40 thousand other people (most of whom wouldn't hear ANY of us). And I'm an atheist!

This was not going to happen. This is how I missed my opportunity to sing for the pope. The end.

I'm sure Benny missed me, though.

We'll continue later.

(Almost) Opening Day Randomness

Various things I think I think:

  • This article says the American League is strong and it's true. What's scary is that while the AL has won six of the past eight World Series, most folks forget that the only champs from the NL in that time are the Florida Marlins. And at this point, I'm not even sure that the NL is proud to call the Marlins their own.
  • In that same story, Ozzie Guillen says this, "It's a different ballgame," says White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, who watched the NL closely as a coach with Montreal and Florida for three seasons before taking his current job in 2004. "People think that there is all of this difference in strategy. The only strategy is the double-switch. "In the American League, I can hit-and-run with my six, seven, eight and nine hitters, and I can bunt. In the National League, I can't move guys over there because the pitcher is batting behind them and what am I gonna do?" That's an interesting point, particularly for those of us who think all the strategy takes place in the NL. Maybe the DH isn't such a bad thing.
    Barry Bonds is everyone's favorite steroid whipping boy. I have a hard time getting all worked up about it, especially considering that the allegations in the hot new book come from: 1) an estranged ex-girlfriend, 2) illegally obtained grand jury documents, and 3) drug dealers and pseudo-scientists. Those of you who are familiar with baseball history will recall though that illegally obtained, leaked grand jury testimony was all that was needed to convict (if only in baseball's terms) the 8 men who were banned from baseball from the White Sox 1919 pennant winners.
  • Home Depot says it doesn't want to participate in any promotional efforts celebrating Barry Bonds because of the steroid rumors and allegations. Home Depot (owned by the owner of the NFL's Falcons) instead prefers to put its money behind athletes who use pseudonyms and knowingly infect women with STDs.
  • Are you familiar with the chain of restaurants known as The Rusty Pelican? For whatever reason, their website only features one Southern California location. Regardless, what is a rusty pelican? I didn't know that animals could become rusty. Should I be worried?
  • My pet peeve: referring to the total value of a player's contract without referencing the length of the deal. Today I heard about a $50 million contract extension for David Ortiz. Now, if that's a 2 or 3-year deal, it's pretty expensive. If it's a 5 or 6-year deal, it's too cheap. The value of a contract doesn't make sense without talking about its duration.
  • Only one new stadium (new Busch in St. Louis) and no new uniforms? That's kind of a blah start to the season. Yeah, the Nats have new alternate jerseys, but that's kind of minor. Edit: Oops - there will be more new things this year. I'm still not sold on those freaky helmets though.
  • This is a great story. I wish they'd run it on the front page of every sports section everyday.
  • If you don't cheer for George Mason this weekend, you have no soul. If you're cheering for the Gators to beat GMU, well... I will pray for the soul that you don't have.

I had a lot more, but I can't remember any of it right now. Oh well, maybe it will come back to me.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Everyone Else Gets a Free Pass

We've all seen the photos of how Barry Bonds' head has grown, how has chest has expanded, and how his biceps are now (each) the size of a small town. Lost in all of that is how he's not alone. In fact, he's far from it.

Some of the guys who have "grown" over the years include the steroid suspects (or the outright guilty). Rafael Palmeiro, for instance:

Before:


After:


How about some other guys? You know - the guys who (at least as far as we're always told by the media) are clean/steroid-free... I'm not saying that these guys are steroid users (or that they ever were). All I'm saying is that some of them have undergone some pretty amazing physical transformations over the years.

Jeff Bagwell
As a youngster:

More recently:

Frank Thomas

Rookie card:

As a grown man:

The Thomas rookie card shocks me. I've always thought of Frank as a big guy, but if you took his name off of that rookie card, I wouldn't ever guess that it was him.

Alex Rodriguez

Rookie card:

More recently:

Yeah, they're just pictures. And yeah, there's all kinds of "evidence" against Bonds. Mostly we just don't know details about guys who weren't working with BALCO because their suppliers weren't busted. That doesn't mean that no one else is/was using steroids.

But we seem to be doing a good job of separating the users from the non-users by just looking at people. So if we're convicting guys based on pictures and hat sizes, let's make sure that we get them all.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Korea Hat!!!!

My life is complete.

I can now get a Korea hat.

Thank you, MLB store - finally!

Of course - it's the wrong one. It is the darker blue one, not the truly cheesy sky blue one, but I will take what I can get. Too bad this is too late for me to get for my fantasy baseball draft today.

...or my trip to Italy. THAT would be sweet!

Okay... better get on the road. Scotch and a first round pick of Calvin Pickering await!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

A real QB in Miami



As you know, I am anything but a Dolphins fan. But this is exciting news: the Dolphins, at long last have a real QB. I mean, they finally have a guy who's capable of taking them to the next level. It's been a long time since a certain legend retired, but now the Dolphins might have the answer at quarterback. For the first time in decades, they'll have a guy under center who's capable of leading his team to a Super Bowl -- and not embarassing himself when he gets there. It's an exciting time to be a Dolphins fan. They haven't had a QB with this kind of ability since Bob Griese retired.

And even if you're (like me) not a Dolphins fan, you have to be excited about the prospects of having a guy who's gotten into some headline making trouble in Minnesota (freaking Minnesota). If Daunte can make off field headlines in Minneapolis-St. Paul, he could be a lot of fun in the magic city of Miami.

Monday, March 13, 2006

WBC

I am getting alternatingly more into, and more amazingly frustrated with, the WBC. Yesterday was pretty cool, though. I'm happy because finalyl a decent number of the games were actually on TV. Of course - I'm mad because I couldn't actually watch most of them as I had other things going on (stupid family crap and then an opera to go to), but it was nice that they finally did something right and put the shit on the TV.

I have to say, though, that the highlight for me... was the Korea hat. How cool is it? Let me count the ways.

Trucker hat? Yup.

Sky blue? Check.

Big dorky 'K'? Oh mamma mia!

I HAVE to get one of those Korea hats!

This desire is made THAT much stronger by the fact that YOU CAN'T GET ONE! I could get a Chan Ho Park Jersey for $129.99 if I wanted - OR an Italy cap. Or a freeaking South Africa cap!!!

Korea is Undefeated!!! AND they have the coolest cap EVER! And you can't buy it!

Just another reason to be truly annoyed with the way they have handled this whole thing.

I hate Bud Selig.

Thursday, March 9, 2006

Bringing the Thunder

Randomness. Complete and utter randomness:

  • I got my hands on one of Wiggins' college papers. Apparently he went to USF for a little while.
  • Have your pets found The Lord? Maybe it's time.
  • The Simpsons - for real.
  • This dude started for the USA in the World Baseball Classic. Are you kidding me?
  • Remember the whole 7th Floor Crew mess for The U? Something similar happened at Michigan, but it wasn't made into a big deal... mainly because the song is really bad (as in, I could rap better than that).
  • There's only one place you need to go for baseball previews (AL here and NL here). I mean, where else are you going to get insight and analysis like this (from the Cubs preview):
    Strength: Catcher Michael Barrett won the Silver Slugger award last year, which is apparently given to a random player whose name is drawn out of a hat.
    Weakness: Derek Lee just missed the triple crown last year when he fucked it up in the end of the season. Expect the Cubs to get less production out of him this year, as last year was a fluke.
    Question mark: Kerry Wood may not be ready in time for opening day. That sentence should be engraved on a plaque on the wall of the manager's office at Wrigley Field.
    Outlook: Mark Prior was dangled as trade bait in the offseason for shortstop Miguel Tejada, probably because the Cubs would prefer someone who is actually good, rather than someone who is theoretically good.

Wednesday, March 8, 2006

Cuban Time

The WBC game between Cuba and Panama started about ten minutes late today. Apparently the Cubans were trying to employ some "gamesmanship" during the lineup card exchange process. Most of the teams in the WBC have been forthcoming with their lineups and pitching plans (Buck Martinez laid out Team USA's plan for game one against Mexico at least a week prior to the first pitch, for anyone who wanted to hear about it). The Cubans took a different angle on the whole thing.

After issuing not one, not two, but three lineups before the game, the Cubans spent ten minutes at the plate before turning their lineup card over. Based on what the radio announcers are saying, it sounds like the Cubans went with their original lineup. It's not clear at this point whether there was some sort of an issue (illness to a player, someone missed a meeting/workout, etc) or if this really was some sort of gamesmanship. If it's the latter, I'm not sure what it's supposed to accomplish. Normally the exchanging of lineup cards is a mere formality. Over the course of a major league season, managers often send their coaches, and sometimes even players, out to handle the duties. To make it into an issue is odd. I wonder what will come out of this. Maybe the Cubans had some issues with the ground rules at the stadium.

Edit: I think the Cubans really want to win today and/or they're panicked. There are two on and one out in the bottom of the first and they already have two relievers warming up in the pen. And yes, they do have their ace on the hill.

Reason # 1,256,489 that Wiggins wants to be President


And no one gives you a hard time about it.

Tuesday, March 7, 2006

I'm getting into the WBC

Now that it's finally underway, I'm really getting into the WBC. I suppose I'm supposed to be all about Team USA, but I'm really just excited about watching some great baseball players -- even if the overall quality of play isn't great.

I thought that XM's radio coverage was interesting. While I don't know if it was intentional or not, the crowd noise during both games I listened to (the US - Mexico and the Dominican Republic - Venezuela) was loud. When you consider the relatively small size of the crowds, it was even louder than that. Maybe the XM folks were trying to drown out the volume on their announcers. That wasn't necessary, although that's what often happened. XM's play-by-play coverage generally consists of their hosts from 175 for these WBC games. The play-by-play calls are good, but not the professional voices that you're used to. Still, it was nice for me, as a regular XM 175 listener to hear some of the voices that I've become so familiar with over the past year or so.

Random: Of all the things that people are complaining about with this tournament, why isn't anyone talking about the fact that minor league umpires are being used? I mean, this is a "world championship" and it's being officiated by minor leaguers. Something's wrong with that. Maybe it will be more of an issue after Miguel Cabrera's disputed home run/double today (even though it ultimately didn't affect the outcome of the game).

Oh yeah, and the Yankees are complaining. Surprise, surprise. It seems that fans aren't turning out in Tampa because some of the star power is missing. I thought the Yanks were supposed to have great, loyal fans. Apparently their fans are loyal so long as their are superstars to watch... early in spring training.

Willie Mays said something rather profound the other day. He was wishing that the WBC had been around in his day, as he said he would have liked to have represented the USA. What came next was the interesting part: Mays said that he wasn't sure if he'd have started on the team back in his day. On the surface, that's rather tough to believe (Mays was third all-time in home runs until recently; he was a great defender and was speedy on the base paths), but it's possibly true. You'd almost have to grant that the corner outfield spots would be manned by Hank Aaron and Frank Robinson. Those two are two of the all-time greats of all the all-time greats. That leaves only one outfield spot (and keep in mind, we're talking about the days before the DH); Mays wasn't sure if he'd have started ahead of Mickey Mantle. I'm not sure who I would have picked. That's a tough call. Those are the types of calls (ok, maybe we'll never see something like a Mays/Mantle issue ever again) that the WBC was built to create. Maybe we'll see more of them the next time around (in 2009) if everyone starts buying into this tournament. If they play it in November next time, I think we will.

Monday, March 6, 2006

Nothing new!

I am just REALLY sick of seeing that Noles picture up there at the top.

How about we talk about something new? How about college baseball?

How them Canes doing? Hmmmm...